Alastair Reynolds recommended The Quiet War on his Blog. I love Alastair Reynold’s books (especially the Revelation Space universe) so I thought I’d pick up a copy. It was a bit of a gear change going from the deeply immersive work of Ian McDonald to the drier hard SF of Paul McAuley. The Quiet War is a cold-war type novel set 300 years from now. Due to ecological catastrophe in the 21st century, humanity sort of split – with the groups that had already colonized Mars, the Moon and near earth orbit (mostly today’s Western nations) being driven further out into the solar system by the more radicalized new powers. These include Greater Brazil (who now govern most of North and South America through a feudal oligarchy). The radicalized new powers basically haven’t forgiven the old powers for messing up Earth with oil and resource wars in the 21st century and the outer colonies are about all that’s left of that way of life. There are interesting hints of an earlier war (Mars dropping a small asteroid on China, Earth exterminating the first Martian colonies with a series of comet strikes) and hints at what occurred during the global catastrophe (large battles across the warming antarctic continent for dwindling fossil fuel resources) – but these tidbits are a background to the main story in The Quiet War.
The main thing that comes across in the book is that all the main characters are pretty flawed. Just as you think that you are going to like a particular character they do something you don’t really like. It is a lot like BattleStar Galactica where everyone is looking out for themselves and it is hard to take sides. Which hints at the novel’s complexity. A lot of authors paint one side as good and the other as bad (some even set up a flip to occur so that you suddenly realize that your assumptions were wrong), but few let you make up your own mind. The war happens and one side wins, but you come away from the book thinking that the side that won probably wasn’t the “good guys”.
I wasn’t roped into the book like I am with McDonald’s “un-put-downable” stuff, but I did find myself coming back to it, which is why I recommend picking this one up in paperback if you manage to see it somewhere (I got the TPB version).